Thinking about traveling? Don’t think, just do. You’ll thank yourself later. Here are six things I learned from biting the bullet and traveling by myself.
When I decided to travel by myself to Granada, Nicaragua, I almost backed out of it. I didn’t think I could do it. Oddly enough, not only did I let my own negative thoughts deter me, I was told on a regular basis that if I took a year off before going to graduate school that that year would turn into two and three, and then I wouldn’t go back. This never happened. I went to graduate school exactly one year after graduating from college.
I’m so happy that I went ahead with my trip. I’m so happy that I took the time to travel at the wonderful age of 22. Now that I’m a bit older, 28, I’m so appreciative of this time I spent by myself, living in the moment and not having to think about productivity.
Traveling by myself – a transformative journey
Traveling solo has given me the opportunity to reflect and introspect on a deeper level. Without the distractions of familiar faces or daily routines, I have had the chance to disconnect from the noise of everyday life and truly focus on my own thoughts and emotions. This self-reflection has allowed me to gain insights into my values, desires, and personal growth areas. It has helped me discover aspects of myself that I may not have fully recognized or explored before.
Traveling by myself has instilled in me a sense of empowerment and independence. The ability to navigate new cities, overcome language barriers, and plan my own itinerary has given me a sense of accomplishment and freedom. It has shown me that I am capable of taking charge of my own adventures and creating unforgettable experiences.
Here are six lessons I learned from biting the bullet and traveling by myself.
1. I was forced to learn.
The first morning, I was lulled out of my sleep by the sound of people selling fruit. My heart raced, the mosquitos bit me all night and I was hotter than hell.
When I turned my head to read the clock and temperature at 8 in the morning, it was 104 degrees.
I had no other choice. I was forced to take in my surroundings because I choose to travel by myself.
My body was sticky from the incessant heat and humidity. Intermittent water and power outages were a regular occurrence. When I came home and wanted nothing more than to take a shower, I turned the knob and that’s when I heard a funny sound followed by a few sad drops of water. No shower for me.
So, instead I played cards with my new friends, or I hung out in a hammock. I consumed very little. I realized how beautiful and simple life could be—how I could be.
2. I became self-aware.
For years, I was the person that I was expected to be. I was well-behaved—sort of—and paralyzed by the fear of failure. On my trip by myself, I left that identity behind me, and created a new one. I had no choice but to let go of that identity—the one of a college student and sorority girl. None of it mattered anyway because I was a bartender at a local hostel, making one dollar an hour.
I realized that I had no interests. Partying is not an interest. I had a blog to document my travels, and since I was no longer overwhelmed by school, I took the time to engage in my interests such as improving my Spanish, writing, reading and traveling the region.
Another thing I realized was that I knew nothing. About anything. Among my new group of friends from all walks of life, it was a pretty normal thing to talk about current events and politics. At that time, the 2009 Honduran coup was a very big deal and discussed frequently. That’s when it hit me: In one month, I knew more about Honduran politics than the four years I spent in Pennsylvania. The capital of Pennsylvania is… Harrisburg?
3. I learned to be present in the moment.
Many lessons I learned traveling by myself did not realize themselves until years later. Being in the moment was one of them. I would be lying to you if I told you that I learned to live in the moment in my three month trip when I most definitely did not. At 22 years old, I was still very much preoccupied with school and being well-liked, and I kicked myself because I thought of my trip as frivolous and unproductive.
I regret, so very much, ever feeling this way. It is now, years later, that I am in the moment. Now, my life is such that it’s not financially responsible to travel, so my travels are now done in my head where I can fly. I take myself back to Nica so that I can finally see and appreciate the experience for what it was—my time with myself, building the strong base on which I stand now.
Now, I have all the time in the world to be productive. My current efficiency rate is set at an impossible 88% and if I don’t cross that productivity threshold, my boss, at the end of the day, takes a red hot poker and shoves it up my ass.
4. I became confident.
Becoming a confident person was another delayed lesson. When I begin to doubt myself now, I need look no further than my past. I think about the resilient person who travelled by herself up and down the western coast of Nicaragua.
Anytime I doubt myself now, it doesn’t last very long. That’s why when I get incredulous comments like, “You might need someone to help you build your website,” I think about the time that I walked the streets of Granada alone at night, or when I took the bus to my favorite spot of all, San Juan del Sur. I hiked along the coast to get to my favorite spot on the secluded beach so that I could write.
“You, want to build your own website?” He asked me.
“What? Like it’s hard?” You know what, he was right. I don’t know how to build a website. Believe me, boy, I will figure it out.
5. I became more empathetic.
Traveling by myself has been a transformative journey that has deepened my empathy and cultural awareness. As I embarked on my adventures alone, I found myself immersing in new cultures, connecting with people from diverse backgrounds, and witnessing different ways of life.
One of the most powerful ways solo travel expanded my empathy was through personal interactions. I had the opportunity to engage with locals and fellow travelers, sharing stories, experiences, and perspectives. Through these conversations, I gained a profound understanding of the challenges, joys, and aspirations of people from different cultures. Listening to their stories and learning about their struggles and triumphs opened my heart and broadened my perspective.\
6. I began to appreciate myself and my life.
I saw unbelievable poverty in Nicaragua, and I appreciated just how good I have it. Much of it I didn’t decide. You don’t decide where you’re born, where you grow up, your parents or your socio-economic status growing up. On my trip to Nicaragua, I realized how privileged I am simply by the life and body in which I was born.
There weren’t a lot of distractions, so I was forced to just suck it up and be with myself, even when I bored myself to death. With minimal internet and no smartphone, I accepted the situation and, most importantly, myself for what it was. My trip to Nicaragua is the greatest act of self-love I have ever done.
So, have I convinced you yet to travel by yourself? Bite the bullet, and do it even if you doubt yourself. Everyone doubts themselves. When you’re young is the time to do it because your brain is literally a sponge and will take in every sight and sound. You will also absorb language in a way that is only possible when you’re young because the brain doesn’t harden until your mid-20s. Travel now, be productive later. Comment below and share your thoughts with us!